Ever since an August 2015 federal subpoena of documents related to Fresno Unified School District’s award of no-bid construction contracts, the district has faced many distractions.
Now, with Monday’s termination of Superintendent Michael Hanson by the board of trustees, the district needs to move forward in a united and collaborative manner that focuses entirely on doing what’s best for students.
Hanson was removed from his position without cause on a 4-2 vote and his buyout could cost the district up to $328,000, The Bee’s Mackenzie Mays reported Monday night.
Hanson himself set the stage for the termination. First, he announced on Dec. 12 that he would serve only through the end of August – even though the board in November extended his contract through 2021. Then, according to Board President Brooke Ashjian, Hanson subsequently told the board that he had not resigned and that “in reality, nothing has changed in my job status at all.”
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Though Hanson’s firing does not end the ongoing federal investigation, it ends a question that has divided the community for the past 18 months: Should Hanson continue as superintendent?
That debate finally is over, but Monday’s decision opens up a whole new box of questions about Hanson’s successor.
Among them: How much say will the community have in the selection process? How long will Bob Nelson, who was named acting superintendent, serve in that capacity? And if the trustees decide to appoint an interim superintendent, will that person be a caretaker – or be directed to clear the decks of ongoing issues so that the permanent superintendent is put in the best position to succeed?
The trustees will tackle these issues in coming days and weeks. As they do so, we encourage them to concentrate on the future and not re-litigate the past.
Three trustees – Valerie Davis, Christopher De La Cerda and Cal Johnson – had been loyal to Hanson and his initiatives throughout their board service.
The November election, however, brought a changing of the guard, the ascension of Hanson critic Brooke Ashjian to the board presidency and increased scrutiny of Hanson’s performance.
Davis, De La Cerda and Johnson must now avoid the temptation to score political points or seek retribution with their votes and public comments. Likewise, the board majority bloc of Ashjian, Claudia Cázares, Carol Mills and Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas must not politically punish or freeze out their board colleagues.
While Hanson moved the district forward in his 12-plus years as superintendent, his my-way-or-the-highway leadership and divide-and-conquer political games kept Fresno Unified from closing the achievement gap even more.
His exit marks a grand opportunity for trustees to become true teammates again and chart a course that elevates classroom performance, boosts teacher morale and increases community confidence in the district.